Friday, October 5th, 2007
In New Memoir, Award-Winning Haitian Novelist Edwidge Danticat Chronicles Death of Her Uncle at Federal Immigration Jail
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Edwidge Danticat is an award-winning Haitian-born writer who now lives in Miami. In November 2004, Danticat’s 81-year-old uncle, Reverend Joseph Dantica, died in the custody of immigration officials. He had arrived from Haiti seeking political asyslum following threats on his life. Denied his medicines and accused of faking an illness, he died just days after his detention. Edwidge Danticat tells this devastating story in her latest book, “Brother, I’m Dying.” [includes rush transcript]
Immigrant detention centers constitute one of the fastest growing forms of incarceration in the United States. Currently there are 30,000 immigrants in detention, and nearly 300,000 are detained each year. They are held in private, federal or county prisons across the country for weeks, and even months, while the government decides whether to deport them. According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, which is a division of the Department of Homeland Security, one quarter of the people they detain suffer from chronic health conditions. ICE claims to spend $98 million a year on healthcare for detainees and to provide them with “humane and safe detention environments.” But at least 65 people have died in ICE custody since 2004. The House Judiciary Committee organized a hearing Thursday afternoon on this subject. Tom Jawetz of the ACLU prison project called the care at the detention centers “grossly deficient, inexcusable, and immoral.”Edwidge Danticat is an award-winning Haitian-born writer who now lives in Miami, Florida. She also testified at Thursday’s congressional hearing. In November of 2004, her 81-year-old uncle, Reverend Joseph Dantica, died in the Krome detention center in Miami. He had just fled Haiti after hiding from an armed gang that threatened to kill him because United Nations and Haitian police forces had fired shots from the roof of his church. Reverend Dantica arrived at Miami International Airport with a multiple-entry visa and said he was applying for temporary political asylum. He was immediately detained, and his medicines were taken away from him. A medic at Krome accused him of “faking his illness.” He died a few days later.Edwidge Danticat tells this devastating story in her latest book. It’s a memoir called “Brother, I’m Dying.” She joins me now from Miami, Florida.
- Edwidge Danticat. Award-winning Haitian American novelist. She is the author of several books including “Breath, Eyes, Memory”, “The Farming of the Bones”, “Krik? Krak!” and “The Dew Breaker.” Her latest book is a memoir called “Brother, I’m Dying.” It tells the story of her uncle, Joseph Dantica, dying in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security.
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